May is Mental Health Awareness Month, so now feels like a great time to revisit a topic that has affected the nation’s collective mental well-being for over a year now: the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to a 2020 CDC study on mental health, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts during the pandemic, at least 40 percent of U.S. adults reported struggling with mental health or substance abuse back in June. Many of those effects are still lingering.
How do you know if your mental health has been negatively impacted by the pandemic? Look for these signs:
1. Increased anxiety
Perhaps the most common widespread side effect of the pandemic, anxiety is a natural response to worry about things that are beyond your control. Here are some ways to help manage your anxiety at home. If you need more help, call us right away.
2. Depression and increased feelings of isolation or disconnection
Social or physical distancing has made us all hyper-aware of the threats we pose to one another, but it’s important to remember the joy we bring one another as well. Of course, this can make us feel even sadder if we can’t, or choose not to, be with our loved ones. Remember that even though you feel alone, you are not alone, and that many people feel the same way.
Warning signs that you may need professional help to handle feelings of isolation include extreme or unusual risk-taking behavior, unusual or quick weight gain or loss, excessive use of drugs or alcohol, self-harming behavior, and major mood swings.
Spending most of your day online or tunneling into news, social media, chat forums and video games can also do more harm than good. Instead, try getting outdoors, talking openly with someone about your feelings, and finding healthy physical outlets, like exercise, a hobby, or group activities like book clubs. This may help you overcome these feelings and behaviors.
3. Trauma or distress
This could result from loss of a loved one, loss of one’s own health, or conflicts with friends and family. Big changes in life can be traumatic, whether they are forced upon you or partially your decision. Be patient and kind with yourself, take the time to breathe, rest, and talk to other people who might share your distress.
4. Increased substance use or abuse
It can be tempting to indulge in what makes you feel good (at the time), only to find yourself stuck in the vicious loop of addiction. Recognize when you are turning to substances to help you feel better, forgive yourself, and check your behavior by seeking therapy. If you’ve been there before, reach out to a trusted friend or sponsor. Remember, there are other ways to feel good without damaging your mind, body, and relationships long-term.
5. Suicidal thoughts
Tons of people have them; not everyone acts on them. But even just having suicidal thoughts is a sign that not all is well with your mental health. Maybe you’re feeling under-appreciated or misunderstood. Maybe you’re questioning the point of existence with all that is going on. Maybe you feel you’d be doing your loved ones a favor by disappearing. You may have good reason to believe these things but know that none of this is true. Seek therapy immediately to investigate what is skewing your point of view, regain hope for the future, and live your best life.
Mental health issues like the ones above don’t just disappear; they have lasting effects on our psyches. If you haven’t done so already, address your mental health as soon as possible. See if you’re truly feeling OK or if you’ve buried any of these feelings. You don’t have to suffer in silence. Professional help is a great resource that can help point you in the right direction and recover from the massive toll the pandemic has taken on you and society in general. Reach out today and see what therapy can do for you.